As one year concludes and another one arrives, it is only natural to feel the urge to look back at past times, take stock of where one is in life, and set goals for improvement where needed. I don’t set specific New Year’s resolutions any more; it was always a way for my OCD to torture me with its black and white thinking and superstitious beliefs. I try to focus on each day, each hour, each moment as a fresh start to walk away from negative behaviors and make positive changes.
Still at the turn of a year, I usually find myself in a bit of a reflective mood. These past three and a half years have been all about my recovery, which has been absolutely beautiful and necessary. Last year was filled with internal discoveries, lessons and victories. Don’t get me wrong; I am extremely happy and grateful for all those important developments. However looking over the past year I hardly see any achievements outside of my recovery work.
I remember a few months after I discharged from treatment; I attended an event that featured a speaker that was a few years into recovery. She spoke about her recovery journey and I remember so vividly how she hammered on the point that it was important for mental illness sufferers not only to have it as their goal to survive, but to thrive.
During treatment and in the months following, I had to learn how to do even the most basic things again. Going to the store, showering, driving, or even just walking down a street seemed like insurmountable challenges. Now, a few years later I have mastered fundamental task of daily living. Obviously there are still things that cause me difficulties in my everyday life, but I have tools and resources to manage those challenges as they arise. I have gotten to the point where I am surviving, but now it is time for me to focus on thriving.
When I look back on the past year, there were so many things that I wanted to do and that I planned to do, that I never actually did. I have both internally, and during sessions with my therapist, spent time analyzing why this keeps happening. Why do I keep procrastinating going after the things I want to? Why am I so terrified of diving into new things?
I have come to the conclusion that a deep-held fear of failure is standing in my way. I have this skewed vision that you only get one chance at anything in life. That if you don’t do it perfectly the first time, you will be known as a failure, and never get another opportunity to attempt it again. So, I keep waiting for the moment when I can execute something perfectly before starting anything new. That moment never comes because, well, practice makes perfect, and my fear of imperfection keeps me from practicing. Not that perfection even exists, but you get my point. If I don’t start doing, I never get better at anything.
A recent visit to The Museum of Failure strangely enough filled me with inspiration. The whole museum is filled with stories of failures, both big and small; even gigantic failures made by some of the brightest minds. It showed me that no one is immune to failure, not even those with decades of experience on a subject. It also awoke in me this idea that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Failure isn’t necessarily an end stop, but rather a diving board into a pool of new possibilities. In order to find out what works, you must also figure out what doesn’t. If you haven’t failed you haven’t truly pushed to the edge of what is possible.
So as weird as it sounds, this year I really want to fail more. I want to think less and do more, try new things and push my limits. I want to stop letting my fear control me and take more risks. This year I am going to go after what I want, and start putting into actions some of the things I’ve been dreaming of doing. So here is to a year of failures and maybe some successes; who knows what is truly possible once I let go of my fear of failure.